Monday, August 07, 2006

Robin Hood, the Green Man.

The importance of Robin Hood to the people of England far exceeded the basic legend which persists today of a Nottingham teenager, loyal to an absent King, and defending the poor from the abusive systems of the rich. Robin Hood in many ways was "the Green Man". A metaphor for the old ways and the old religions, under which life was better, game was plentiful, and taxes less punitive. (Above left: The Green Man from 1991's Robin Hood, as he is depicted in Robin hood and Maid Marian's wedding ceremony; a Pagan service carried out by Friar Tuck. Above right: Herne the Hunter, the Pagan priest from Robin of Sherwood, from whom Robin Hood recieves guidance. Below: The nightmarish world of an England awaiting the return and triumph of the Green Man.)
The Green Man can be found in seemingly countless stone and wood carvings within churches across England (churches that were often built on places of Pagan worship), and even occurs in other lands and cultures. He is a symbol of rebirth and fertility, a representation of how life returns to the soil in the spring, bringing fresh crops. These carvings represent an act of faith that the Green Man will return, bringing the warmth of the sun, and that the harvest will be plentiful. Early Christian missionaries would incorporate such entities as the Green Man into their preaching as a means of encouraging new converts. But after the Reformation the Green Man was discouraged, and his image would not be incorporated again into church decorations until the 17th century, later to become especially popular during the Victorian era.
To the people of England Robin Hood represented the same thing: A time when Saxon rule would reaffirm itself over the Norman lords, a time when King Richard would return to oversee the welfare of his own people, a time when their practical Pagan faith systems would not be persecuted by an increasingly influential, and affluent, church.
Above: Maid Marian and Robin Hood stride across the barren, cold landscape, their love not yet consumated. Below: Robin Hood and Maid Marian marry in Pagan style, bringing hope to the land. The Green Man has returned. (Pictures from Robin Hood, 1991).

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Robin Hood (1991) film review.

" Robin Hood", starring Patrick Bergin in the lead role, surely ranks alongside Robin and Marian as one of the two best, intelligent Robin Hood films to date. Of course 1991 was also the year of Prince of Thieves, distracting the general public with the celebrity status of Kevin Costner and the ballad of Bryan Adams. But "Robin Hood" is the superior film by far.
The basic plot is simple enough at first glance. In time honoured style, Sir Robert Hode and his friend Will come to the aid of Much the Miller, who has been caught poaching. Sir Robert is summoned before Saxon Baron Roger Daguerre, only to find his former friend now more eager to please Norman Sir Miles Folcanet, the consequence of which leads to Robert and Will being outlawed. Sir Robert Hode of course rapidly becomes Robin Hood, and the familiar ever popular encounters with Little John, Friar Tuck, and the band of outlaws ensue. But this film is ultimately about much more than the adventures of Robin Hood battling against Norman oppression, exciting though those battles certainly are.
The night before Robin is outlawed he catches a glimpse of Maid Marian. At this point in her personal development Marian is young, beautiful, a "maid" (virgin), but driven more by her hormones than any political cause. What Robin does not see is that she is also a fairly spoilt brat, the product of a sheltered life, and destined for an arranged marriage to Norman Miles Folcanet. She is attracted by the dark, handsome, unconventional Robert Hode; even more so when she witnesses his dramatic escape from the Castle. Marian decides to investigate further, disguised as a boy, and entering the outlaw camp. The landscapes she walks across with Robin are cold, colourless places under Norman rule, and she learns for the first time about the plight of the peasants. Marian's awakening as both a woman and a person are ultimately what this film is really about. Robin Hood's ability with the bow and sword certainly vanquish his enemies, but it is Marian's love which truly empowers this "Green Man" of pagan mythology, as is evident in the final frames of the film when the gloomy landscape fills with sun. This is the power of the woman Maid Marian; not her ability with a bow and arrow, or entering Nottingham Castle as a spy, and it is this which makes the film so unique and interesting.
Patrick Bergin makes an excellent Robin Hood; romantic, angry and proud in equal measure. Owen Teale performs well as Will Scarlet, the most prominent outlaw in the script, but after a superb moment during the opening sequences in which he draws a blade slowly across the baron's neck, he is given little to challenge his ability for the rest of the film. The villains (Jurgen Prochnow and Jeroen Krabbe) are equally fine, without the camp humour of other film versions. But there is much humour here to be found, as in David Morrissey playing Little John with both the accent and attitude of a John Lennon, whilst Jeff Nuttall portrays Friar Tuck as a hustler, eating chicken so he can sell the bones as Holy relics. But it is Uma Thurman who truly excels as Maid Marian, and about whom the film is really about. Her riveting performance sees her alternate between the Pre Raphaelite beauty of Ophelia and the punk style of Pattie Smith. Highly recommended.

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